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Panel to consider House GOP objections to school mask order

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania House Republicans are hoping a rarely used procedure will halt a statewide school masking order Thursday when a special panel will consider whether it should be formally adopted as a regulation rather than simply as an order by the acting Health secretary.

The Joint Committee on Documents, an obscure entity that consists of members of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, other executive branch officials and legislative leaders, was set to meet and potentially vote on the validity of Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam’s Aug. 31 order.

The order applies to K-12 schools and child care facilities and is designed to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The special committee meeting is required after the House Health Committee voted on party lines to request its review and asked the committee to take it up in a Sept. 14 letter from its GOP chairwoman.

If the committee determines it should have been promulgated as a regulation, it can order the Health Department to either go through the process of establishing it as a regulation within 180 days or to stop using the order at all.

The hearing comes a day after a state court heard argument in a pair of lawsuits challenging the order, including one filed by Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, a Centre County Republican. The status of Beam’s order as a regulation is also an issue in those cases.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press.

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